In a surprise announcement Friday afternoon, Lester M. Crawford, the commissioner of the Food and Drug Administration resigned his position. Crawford’s tenure at the FDA has been marked by controversy, including the resignation of Susan F. Wood from the Office of Women’s Health earlier this month. Wood’s departure was a public protest over Crawford’s decision to delay the approval of emergency contraception, known as Plan B, for over-the-counter sales.

Planned Parenthood’s interim president Karen Pearl hailed Crawford’s resignation. “The FDA has led an ideologically motivated effort to keep a safe and effective drug out of women’s hands,” she said in a statement. “We are hopeful that this resignation signals a new day for the FDA, one in which the FDA will resume its public health responsibilities and make decisions focused on science, not politics.”

Under Crawford’s tenure, the agency has been criticized for its approval of the pain killer Vioxx and has been accused of suppressing research about the connection between antidepressants and suicide in children.

Andrew C. von Eschenbach, currently head of the National Cancer Institute, is expected to be named as Crawford’s replacement.

Other News to Cheer This Week:

  • Senators Barbara Mikulski, D-Md., and Kay Bailey Hutchison, R-Texas, have introduced a bill that would reauthorize the National Breast and Cervical Cancer Early Detection Program, a cancer screening program for uninsured or underinsured women. The bill authorizes $250 million in spending, an increase from $55 million last year.

    Despite performing approximately 5.8 million screenings to nearly 2.5 million women since 1991, the program reaches only 20 percent of eligible women (aged 50 to 64) nationwide.

  • Following the revelation that family planning officials in China had forced at least one parent to be sterilized among couples with two children and women pregnant with their third child to undergo abortions, those responsible were fired from their positions and jailed, Reuters reported on Tuesday. The officials, from China’s eastern Shandong province, were also accused of beating and detaining the family members of those who fled to avoid the procedures. Seeking to control population growth, China implemented a family planning policy in 1979 that limits most couples to one child.

  • The U.S. House of Representatives unexpectedly passed an amendment to the Children’s Safety Act that adds offenses motivated by sexual orientation, gender or disability to federal hate crime laws, according to the Feminist Daily News Wire. The amendment also provides funding to the states to help prosecute such crimes.


A group of more than 100 House Republicans known as the Republican Study Committee has proposed paying for Hurricane Katrina costs by cutting funding from programs that low- and middle-income Americans depend on, according to a statement released by the National Women’s Law Center on Wednesday.

Under the proposal, safe and drug-free schools would no longer receive grants to fund violence and sexual harassment prevention programs that benefit women and girls. Additionally, family planning funding that enables teens to access contraceptives would also be diverted to hurricane relief efforts.

Over the next 10 years, funding for Medicaid and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention would be cut by $225 billion and $25 billion respectively and increased Medicare co-pays and premiums would generate an additional $200 billion in fees.

Subsidized loans for graduate students, legal services for the poor and funding for community health centers are also on the chopping block.

Other News to Jeer This Week:

  • A front-page story in The New York Times Tuesday has drawn fire for imprecise language and assumptive reporting. In “Many Women at Elite Colleges Set Career Path to Motherhood,” Times reporter Louise Story asserts that young, well-educated women are increasingly planning to postpone or forgo careers altogether in order to remain at home raising their future children. Story’s conclusions were mainly drawn from an e-mail questionnaire that indicated 60 percent of these elite women planned to concentrate on motherhood rather than careers.

    Among the critics is Jack Shafer of Slate.com. “A questionnaire answered by 138 Yale women sounds like it may contain useful information. But even a social-science dropout wouldn’t consider the findings to be anything but anecdotal,” he railed. “To say Story’s piece contains a thesis oversells it.”

  • Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger told The Sacramento Bee on Tuesday that he would kill anyone who took his daughter to have an abortion without telling him. Schwarzenegger’s statement was in response to a question about his support for an upcoming California ballot initiative known as Proposition 73. If approved by voters, the measure would make most abortions for minors illegal without prior parental or guardian notification and would require a 48-hour wait period between that notification and the procedure.
  • Following an announcement on Sept. 13 that named Norris Alderon the acting director of the Office of Women’s Health for the Food and Drug Administration, that agency replaced it three days later with another statement that announced the appointment of Theresa A. Toigo, a 20-year FDA veteran, to the position. The original appointment was heavily criticized because Alderon, an FDA veterinarian trained in animal husbandry, has no experience in women’s health. On Monday, an agency spokesperson denied the switch, the Washington Post reported. She said that Alderon was never appointed acting director and that her office knew nothing about the first announcement.
  • In response to family lobbyists’ concerns about the declining birth rate among France’s educated professional couples, middle-class women will be paid to have a third child, London’s The Daily Telegraph reported on Tuesday. Mothers could receive as much as $1,200 a month to stop work and raise a third child for up to one year. Minimum wage in France is approximately $1,450 a month.

In Memoriam

Former National Organization for Women president Molly Yard, 93, died in Pittsburgh on Wednesday.

A social worker turned outspoken advocate, Mary Alexander Yard began her political activism in the 1930s when, as a young woman studying at Swarthmore College, she learned that her own sorority would not admit Jews and successfully worked to rid the campus of all sororities. It was her first victory in a lifetime of work for social causes.

Yard was a local organizer for the landmark March on Washington in 1963 and began to view the women’s rights movement as part of the broader civil rights push. She joined NOW in the early 1970s as its political director and became a prominent “voice for choice” at the organization. She campaigned tirelessly for the Equal Rights Amendment, which ultimately failed in 1982. She publicly condemned Judge Robert H. Bork’s nomination to the Supreme Court and following the eruption of the Iran-contra scandal, she called for the impeachment of President Ronald Reagan. In 1987, at the age of 75, Yard was elected president of NOW, a position she held until 1991.

Born in 1912 in Shanghai to Methodist missionary parents, Yard attributed her experiences there as the inspiration for her social activism. She married Sylvester Garrett in 1938 but retained her maiden name. Neither age nor a debilitating stroke in 1991 stopped her.

“Don’t buy that garbage that you’re over the hill at 50,” Yard once said. “This country makes such a big deal over age, particularly if you’re a woman. What I think is relevant is your experience, what you have to offer. I hope people will recognize this and keep going.”

Karen James is a Women’s eNews intern and a master’s candidate at the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism.